Artist In The Spotlight : Bahama Hand Prints
Welcome to Cacique’s Artist In The Spotlight series - a journey into a thriving Bahamian art scene and a look at some of the most celebrated artists, as well as the movers and shakers garnering a name for themselves in The Bahamas and around the world. In the second of the series, we have the great pleasure of introducing Linda Brown - co-owner of Bahama Handprints - a traditional hand screen-printing company that has built a reputation around the world for its bold and brilliant designs.
Cacique. Tell us a little of the history of Bahama Handprints.
Linda: Bahama Hand Prints was founded in 1966 by two artists - Berta Sands and Helen Astarita - who were inspired to start their own hand screen-printing business after visiting the Key West Hand Prints company on a holiday to the Florida Keys. Berta and Helen created a treasure trove of uniquely Bahamian designs that they hand screen-printed in bold and beautiful colours on a variety of fabrics and products. Their business was very successful! In the early 1980s Berta and Helen sold Bahama Hand Prints, which over the next two decades went though three ownerships before being bought by the present owners - (myself) Linda Brown and Joie Lamare.
C. What are the main steps involved in creating and printing a new design?
L. The technique of hand screen printing is ancient and the method remains the same. A design is drawn, the artwork is then printed onto a transparency; we then stretch and glue nylon mesh onto a frame and emulsify it with a light-sensitive emulsion. In our darkroom, the transparency and screen are then aligned on a the light table and exposed to produce a negative. The screen is then rinsed with water and allowed to dry - it is now ready for printing!
C. Who are the artists involved in creating new designs?
Today Bahama Hand Prints has a repertoire of over 130 designs - 50 of which are vintage prints created by founders Helen Astarita and Berta Sands and 3 of which were created by Pamela Burnside who worked as a fashion designer with BHP for 10 years. Since we became owners, we have more than doubled the repertoire of prints. Over 45 new designs have been created by artist and master printer Dylan Rapillard during his 9-year tenure at BHP. We also have screen designs by Thierry Lamare, Joanne McCrum, Dede Brown, Kristin Brown and myself Linda Brown.
C. What are your most popular vintage and modern prints?
L. The popularity of the different print designs change with time, but lately the most popular include Polka Star a starfish print designed by Dylan, Sea Lace a seahorse and fan vintage design by Berta, Fronds a coconut leaf vintage print by Pamela Burnside, Beach Combing a vintage shell print design by Helen and Hibiscus Dazzle Lines a floral print by Thierry Lamare.
C. What are your most popular items for Bahamians & visitors?
L. Bags, garments, household items and fabrics - the latter especially for home decor such as draperies and upholstery as customers can choose a print from our collection, a colour and ground fabric (cotton, linen, outdura etc) and as long as they purchase a minimum of 10 yards, we will custom print for them.
C. How do you get young Bahamians interested in screen-printing?
L. We encourage schools to bring students on our factory tour and have had many groups over the years from kindergarten to college. Students certainly show a keen interest - I think it is inspiring for them to see that we can create all these unique products right here in The Bahamas.
C. Do you do seasonal collections?
Typically we introduce new silhouettes in October for the next year, and we may change the fabric type (we did silk for the holidays) as the seasons change - which is not a dramatic thing here in The Bahamas. We may add in a sleeveless version of a garment as the temperature rises……and perhaps even another print. We also do one new bag collection per year, so look out!
C. Any future ambitions for Bahama Hand Prints?
L. Expansion! We are looking at opening a boutique in Western New Providence. Also, we are planning to acquire a smaller 'print station' which will enable us to work with much smaller screens to create customised partial prints. For example we would be able to print someone's logo onto a garment or a bag, which is going to create a lot more opportunities for Bahama Hand Prints.